Imposter syndrome

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

Years ago I was talking to a talented Sr. UX designer on my team. I was obviously familiar with his portfolio, but I hadn’t seem him on Dribbble. I figured he didn’t have an invite (why else would he not have posted anything ever).

“Dude…”, I said as I swiveled my chair around to face his desk… “Lemme send you a Dribbble invite.”

“Oh yeah…” he replied, “I actually already have an invite… I just haven’t published anything yet… I don’t have anything that’s ready yet”.

Perfectionism is one foe, but this Sr. UX designer was up against imposter syndrome. He was years into his career, and he still didn’t feel as though anything was good enough to upload.

Imposter syndrome doesn’t care if you’ve been designing for 8 months or 18 years. The feeling that you’re not a good enough designer can sneak up on you, regardless of how long you’ve been designing or how many awards you have won.

I still have to shut-imposter-syndrome-up it more often than I care to admit. There’s still moments I look at the talent and skills of the team members I lead (at my full-time job) and I don’t feel good enough to have the leadership role that I do. Or I’ll watch a conference talk or read a book or see a portfolio and think, “geez… will I ever be that good?”

Sure, it can be healthy to see other’s work that makes us strive to improve our craft. Honestly assessing gaps in our own skills and then improving those things is a very effective way to get better. Working on our craft and putting in the practice is highly productive.

BUT, we have to keep it in balance. It’s awfully easy to step over across the line to a toxic way of thinking if we’re not careful. There’s a difference between the healthy thought “I want to learn and improve” versus the toxic thought “I’m not good enough”. Those are two very different thoughts (my post on fixed versus growth mindset explains the distinction).

Shutting it up

I don’t have a silver bullet when it comes to eliminating the “I’m not a good enough designer” thoughts completely. But what I have learned to do is not let those thoughts dictate my behavior.

I’ve learned to turn around and shut them up through action.

The fear of not being good enough doesn’t slow me down or prevent me from sharing my work or ideas. I plow forward and do what I was going to do regardless of whether or not I feel like myself or my work is good enough.

This is the 36th straight week I have sent a newsletter to my list or published a blog post. I have written and hit send or publish whether I felt like I was good enough that day or not. Some posts I’m proud of the work, others I’m not. But I push through regardless. I’m learning and continuing to get better week in and week out.

But what about you? What’s holding you back?

What have you not felt good enough to publish? What video or blog post or design haven’t you created yet because you’ve judged yourself inadequate?

Stop depriving the world of your full creativity and your voice because you don’t think you’re good enough to share.

Shut that voice up. Create. Publish. Repeat.

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